Today, the European Commission has published the 2023 EU Justice Scoreboard, which gives a comparative overview of the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in EU Member States. This is already the eleventh edition, which allows for a long-term overview of how the situation in Member States has evolved in all three areas of effective justice.
What is the EU Justice Scoreboard?
The EU Justice Scoreboard is a comparative information tool which aims to assist the EU and Member States to improve the effectiveness of national justice systems. It does this by providing data on the efficiency, quality and independence of the justice systems in all Member States. It is one of the instruments in the EU's Rule of Law toolbox used by the Commission to monitor justice reforms undertaken by Member States.
The Scoreboard contributes to identifying good practices and potential shortcomings. It shows trends in the functioning of national justice systems over time. It does not present an overall single ranking, but an overview of how all the justice systems function. This is based on various indicators that are of common interest to all Member States.
The Scoreboard does not promote any particular type of justice system and puts all Member States on an equal footing. Whatever the model of the national justice system - or the legal tradition in which it is anchored - timeliness, independence, affordability and user-friendly access are some of the essential features of an effective justice system.
Why are national justice systems important for the EU?
Effective justice systems are essential for the application and enforcement of EU law and for upholding the rule of law and other values upon which the EU is founded and which are common to the Member States. They ensure that individuals and businesses can fully enjoy their rights, strengthen mutual trust, and help to build a business and investment-friendly environment in the single market. Effective justice systems are crucial for the implementation of EU law because national courts act as EU courts when applying EU law.
What about the link between the Scoreboard and the Rule of Law Report?
The EU Justice Scoreboard is part of the EU's rule of law toolbox and one of the sources of information for the Rule of Law Report. It provides comparative data on the functioning of national justice systems, while the annual Rule of Law Report presents a qualitative assessment of significant developments related to the rule of law in all 27 Member States. The Justice Scoreboard and the Rule of Law Report thus complement each other. The 2023 EU Justice Scoreboard has been further developed also to reflect the needs for additional comparative information as observed during the preparation of the 2023 Rule of Law Report.
The EU's rule of law toolbox consists of a wide range of tools to carefully monitor, assess, and respond to the rule of law issues in Member States, among others infringement procedures, the European Semester, the EU Justice Scoreboard, the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), the procedure of Article 7 TEU, and the Annual Rule of Law Cycle, which includes the Rule of Law Report.
What are the main innovations in the eleventh edition of the EU Justice Scoreboard?
The 2023 edition of the Scoreboard contains 16 new or remodelled figures that extend our understanding of:
-the efficiency of first instance courts when dealing with corruption cases (bribery);
-specific arrangements for access to justice by vulnerable groups (for people at risk of discrimination, older persons and victims of gender-based and domestic violence), including selected powers of equality bodies to help victims of discrimination to access justice;
-the salaries of judges and prosecutors;
-legal safeguards regarding decisions of administrative authorities;
-bodies dealing with prevention, investigation and prosecution of corruption;
-the appointment of Supreme Court Presidents and Prosecutors General;
-the highest instances exercising constitutional jurisdictions;
-powers of the Councils for the Judiciary.
What are the main findings of the 2023 EU Justice Scoreboard?
-Efficiency trends were positive in most civil, commercial and administrative cases, based on the available data from 2012 to 2021. After the dip in efficiency observed in 2020, possibly due to the COVID 19 pandemic, in 2021 we see a return to the efficiency levels of 2019. This shows the effect of the measures taken by Member States to introduce different types of hybrid or online working arrangements, in order to keep the courts functioning despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.
-Regarding judicial proceedings dealing with bribery cases, in 12 Member States, the proceedings before first instance criminal courts are concluded within about a year, while in 5 Member States where data are available, the proceedings could last up to about 4 years.
-In terms of available arrangements to support people at risk of discrimination and older persons in accessing justice under equal conditions, most Member States have at least some arrangements in place - mostly an easy physical access to court buildings, information on the rights of persons at risk of discrimination, dedicated trainings for judges or possibility of non-governmental organisations (NGO) or equality bodies to act in court proceedings
-All Member States have in place at least some arrangements for victims of violence gender-based and domestic violence. In 12 Member States, all mapped safeguards are in place. This includes online access to specifically relevant information, special protection for victims and witnesses, support during judicial proceedings by NGOs or equality bodies, or specific dedicated training for judges. However, nearly a quarter of Member States do not provide online access to specific information on domestic violence prevention, support and protection services, or legal information about violence and victims' rights.
-Regarding access to justice and its impact on investor confidence, business environment and functioning of the single market, the 2023 EU Justice Scoreboard extends the mapping of certain aspects of judicial control over acts and omissions of public administrations, based on specific business scenarios. An updated figure presents the recognition and application of the specific forms of state liability under legal regimes of the Member States when state conduct infringing EU law causes damage or when the infringement of EU law stems from a decision of the court adjudicating at last instance. This was already applied in concrete cases before national courts in five Member States for state conduct causing damage and in 10 for decisions of courts adjudicating at last instance. Apart from these specific safeguards, other, more general, forms of state liability may exist. In 24 Member States, companies may receive financial compensation for damage caused by administrative decisions or by administrative silence and courts may stay the enforcement of administrative decisions.
-Indicators remained the same for the digitalisation of justice, in order to ensure continuity and comparability. The 2023 EU Justice Scoreboard shows that Member States continue to improve the digitalisation of their justice systems. Although most Member States already use digital solutions in different contexts and to varying degrees, there is significant room for improvement
-The perception of judicial independence of the general public has improved in 15 Member States since 2016. Compared to last year, the perception has improved in 12 Member States and at the same time decreased or remained stable in 12 Member States. In a few Member States, the level of perceived independence remains particularly low. Amongst companies, another Eurobarometer survey shows the perception of independence has improved in 12 Member States compared to 2016. However, compared to last year, the companies' perception of independence decreased in 13 Member States.
How can effective justice systems have an impact on the economy?
Effective justice systems which uphold the rule of law have a positive economic impact. Where judicial systems guarantee the enforcement of rights, creditors are more likely to lend, businesses are dissuaded from opportunistic behaviour, transaction costs are reduced, and innovative businesses are more likely to invest.
The beneficial impact of well-functioning national justice systems for the economy is supported by a wide range of studies and academic literature, including from the European Central Bank, the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the World Economic Forum and the World Bank.
The national recovery and resilience plans include justice reforms and investments in a number of Member States. The EU Justice Scoreboard will help monitor progress in implementing these reforms.
How does the 2023 EU Justice Scoreboard examine the effectiveness of justice?
The Scoreboard uses indicators that examine the three main features of an effective justice system: efficiency, quality and independence.
The indicators related to the efficiency of proceedings include: caseload, estimated length of judicial proceedings (disposition time), clearance rate (the ratio of the number of resolved cases over the number of incoming cases) and the number of pending cases. The Scoreboard also presents the average length of proceedings in specific fields where EU law is involved.
Easy access to justice, adequate resources, effective assessment tools and the use of information and communication technologies are key factors that contribute to the quality of justice systems. The Scoreboard uses various indicators to cover digitalisation, such as access to online information and to court judgments, digital-ready procedural rules, use of digital technology by courts and prosecution services, secure electronic tools for communication or online access to case files.
The Scoreboard examines the perception of judicial independence, both among the general public and in companies. It also presents several new figures dedicated to bodies dealing with prevention, investigation and prosecution of corruption, including a figure on the length of court proceedings dealing with bribery cases information on the appointment of Supreme Court Presidents and Prosecutors General, on the highest instances exercising constitutional jurisdictions, the powers of the Councils for the Judiciary and the independence of lawyers and bars.
What is the methodology of the EU Justice Scoreboard?
The Scoreboard uses various sources of information. Large parts of the quantitative data is provided by the Council of Europe's European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), with which the Commission has concluded a contract to carry out a specific annual study. This data ranges from 2012 to 2021 and has been provided by Member States according to CEPEJ's methodology. The study also provides detailed comments and country-specific factsheets which give more contextual information and should be taken together with the figures.
Other sources of data are the group of contact persons on national justice systems, National contact points for anti-corruption, the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ), the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU, the Association of the Councils of State and Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions of the EU (ACA-Europe), the European Competition Network, the Communications Committee, the European Observatory on infringements of intellectual property rights, the Expert Group on Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, Eurostat, the Council of Bar and Law Societies in Europe, and the European Judicial Training Network (EJTN).
Why are some data missing?
Although data are still missing for certain Member States, the data gap continues to decrease. The remaining difficulties in gathering data are often due to insufficient statistical capacity or the fact that the national categories for which data is collected do not exactly correspond to the ones used for the Scoreboard. The Commission will continue to encourage Member States to reduce this data gap further.
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